Rhode Island Lawmakers Jockey to be House Speaker
Two legislators have emerged as candidates to replace Gordon Fox in arguably the most powerful position in Rhode Island government after he relinquished the House speakership following twin raids at his Statehouse office and home as part of a criminal investigation.
House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello and Rep. Michael Marcello, both Democrats, have each claimed they have enough votes to become House speaker. It could become clearer who has the edge if Democrats decide to meet Sunday before a formal vote expected later in the week. In a close race, support from members of the small Republican caucus could be key.
Mattiello, Fox’s top deputy, told The Associated Press on Saturday that legislators will now be able to "work together to move the House of Representatives and the state forward in a positive direction."
Countering Matiello’s claim of sufficient support, Marcello told WPRI-TV late Saturday "we have the votes."
Rep. Joseph Trillo, the House minority whip, said Sunday that the six Republicans in the 75-member chamber want to vote as a bloc but haven’t yet decided whom to support. He said both potential candidates have already begun courting them for votes.
"Some of us want to go one way, and some of us want to go another way," he said. "It’s very, very fluid."
The Friday raids on Fox’s office and home came amid a joint investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office, FBI, IRS and state police. Boxes of evidence were carried off after agents spent hours at Fox’s home and office Friday. Officials will not say whom or what they are investigating.
Fox, a 52-year-old Providence Democrat who became the nation’s first openly gay House speaker in 2010, said in an emailed statement Saturday that he plans to serve the rest of his term, which runs through the end of the year. But, he said: "My personal focus going forward will be on my family and dealing with the investigation."
"Because of the respect I have for all members of the House of Representatives, I am resigning as Speaker," Fox said. "The process of governing must continue and the transition of leadership must be conducted in an orderly manner."